The Southampton Town Planning Board ruled last Thurday it will require an environmental impact study for CVS at the corner of Montauk Highway and the Bridgehampton Turnpike. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz.
By Mara Certic
At the end of a three-hour meeting on Thursday afternoon, the Southampton Town Planning Board ruled that it would require an environmental impact study for CVS pharmacy that has been proposed for a busy intersection in Bridgehampton.
Southampton Town Planner Claire Vail presented her recommendation to the board on Thursday after she discussed the standards of the State Environmental Quality Review Act. The application is considered “unlisted,” which means the planning board has the final say in whether or not an EIS is required.
CVS Caremark filed for a special exception permit in July to allow the pharmacy giant to occupy a 9,030-square-foot-building at the intersection of Montauk Highway, the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike and Lumber Lane.
Ms. Vail said on Thursday the proposed pharmacy could have significant potential adverse effects on both traffic and the community character, which lead the board to adopt what is called a “positive declaration,” requiring the environmental study.
In 2011, the planning board approved plans by BNB Ventures IV—the company that owns the land—to demolish the Bridgehampton Beverage store in order to put in its place a two-story Greek revival building. When approved in 2011, the planning board had determined the building would not have any adverse impact on its surroundings.
It was initially proposed the building would have a couple of retail spaces with offices or apartments upstairs, but the entire building was zoned for retail uses, which allows CVS to seek to merge the different retail spaces together to make one large store. But the town code requires developers seeking to build retail spaces larger than 5,000 square feet in the village business district to apply for a special exception permit, although the use is not prohibited outright.
News of CVS potentially taking over the busy corner caused outcry from members of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee, who in turn created the offshoot organization Save Bridgehampton Main Street in an effort to raise money to fund a potential legal battle.
A few dozen people showed up to Thursday afternoon’s planning board meeting, many of them sporting anti-CVS pins in their lapels, to listen to Ms. Vail discuss the board’s determination. Although members of the CAC had tried to make arguments that there might be impacts on the historic district or nature of the lot, which is the site of a historic tavern, Ms. Vail determined it unlikely the CVS would affect the historical character of the area.
“That triangle has some historic importance, but you already approved a building there,” said John Bennett, who is representing CVS Caremark.
Ms. Vail did, however, say that an almost 10,000-square-foot pharmacy on the busy corner would have a significant negative effect on the community character of Bridgehampton’s Main Street. Ms. Vail used copies of the Bridgehampton Hamlet Study and plans for the hamlet center as criteria, all of which named maintaining the community character as the village’s primary goal.
Ms. Vail also found there to be a significant potential negative impact on traffic in the area, thus requiring a traffic study.
Questions remain about how many parking spots there should be, as well as the scope of any traffic study. Mr. Bennett appeared to be frustrated following Ms. Vail’s presentation to the planning board.
He told the board the developers had already hired BHB Engineering to do a traffic study. “The first thing I insisted upon was a traffic impact statement,” he said. “You cannot under any guise use the traffic concerns here because that ship has sailed.”
Members of Save Bridgehampton Main Street also hired an engineer for their own traffic study, which will be read into the record at one of the upcoming public hearings on the application. Following the adoption of the positive declaration, a third traffic study will likely be conducted on the busy corner.
Mr. Bennett told the board this move was “textbook arbitrary action,” and warned the planning board to use only substantiated facts and expert testimony when making its decisions. Mr. Bennett several times made reference to appealing the board’s decision. At one point, he said, “I guess a court will have to decide that.”
Wayne Bruyn, who is representing BNB Ventures IV, accused the board of standing alone with its staff on “a twisted interpretation of the code.”
The two attorneys spent approximately 45 minutes responding to Ms. Vail’s presentation and accused the board of acting illegally.
“I know you’re under a lot of political pressure, I ask you to consider what you said, I don’t see how you have the authority to do anything you’re doing today,” Mr. Bennett said.
When the board asked the lawyers for an adjournment in order to consider its reply, Mr. Bennett flatly refused and said “You’re going to do what you’re going to do.”
“You’ve had more than enough time” to prepare, Mr. Bennett added. “You should have anticipated what I was going to say, you should have known it all along.”
The six members of the board present voted unanimously to accept the positive declaration. Public hearings and further environmental review will take place in the coming weeks.